Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Knight redux

After about seven or eight hours of work I have got my first AL! adventure in pretty good shape. It still needs another editorial pass, but overall I am pretty happy with it. I really want to take a look at Gumshoe, however. Laws and Hite are said to have come up with some pretty original mechanics for crime-solving roleplay, and I want to see them.

The AL! manuscript is currently at 145 pages. I can't post "The Best Knight in the World" until my players are done going through it, but if anyone out there does want to see it, let me know and I'll send you a copy. I'd be glad for the feedback.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"The Best Knight in the World"

I've moved on to re-tooling the first adventure in the AL! saga. I ran this adventure years ago under the d20 Modern system. We did not finish the adventure, on account of the fact that it was far too lethal. Everyone nearly died at the first major climax. I had not realized then -- as I do now -- that d20 Modern was not actually intended for 1st level PCs. Player characters should be 5th level or so. Otherwise, they are simply far too fragile and typical foes far too lethal.

Of course, I cannot post this adventure since my players need to be kept in the dark. What I did today was re-make all the antagonists and NPCs using True20. In all cases, the new version was lower level and simpler. I also got some good ideas on how to make the encounters less lethal. Also: I note that True20 had Minions long before 4E. So there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Final Chronology

I had not intended to go into this much detail but, you know, it's done and it's not as long as all that. Besides, players of Gawaine, Gaheris, Pellinore, Tor, and Balin will be plenty happy for that detail.

The last year of the chronology for the core AL! release is 413 AD. It covers the final battles with Ryons and Lot, the marriage of Arthur, and the Quest of the White Hart.

Chronology: Three Feet High and Risin'

The tough part about figuring out an Arthurian chronology is getting Merlin's prophecies to work out right. When Merlin convinces Arthur to let Lot and the other rebels escape in the first year of his reign, he does so by convincing Arthur that Lot will not threaten the realm again for three years. He's very specific. If Arthur's reign can be dated to 410 based on internal evidence, that means Lot is not finally defeated until 413. But it seems to happen in mid-412.

One more big year to go and then I will not worry about any more chronology for this manuscript.

Read 411 AD here and 412 AD over here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Arthur Chronology

My current Arthur Lives! project is a history of Arthur's early reign, focusing on his first three or four years. The first chapter is drafted. You can read it here.

Subsequent chapters will introduce Guenevere and Morgause, Excalibur and Pellinore, the Dolorous Stroke, Arthur's wedding, and the Round Table.

It feels really good to be doing this at last, although to others it probably looks like thankless drudge work. It really helps me get a full understanding of the medieval sources, and I start to see connections I never did before. For example, in the Battle of Bedegraine, one of the few casualties of note is the King of North Wales. But his death suddenly gives more depth to King Ryons, who subsequently becomes one of Arthur's immediate enemies. Because Ryons was also King of North Wales, so Arthur must have killed his father or brother.

But, predictably, it is slow and long work.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Today I wrote a summary of the story of Avenable, which is found in the Prose Merlin. It's about a woman who masquerades as a squire and rises to become Seneschal of the Emperor of Rome, being knighted along the way. She is specifically described as skilled at arms, as well as strong, tall, and beautiful. I <3 her.
She totally deserves a novel.

Read her at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Festivus for the Restofus!

We will begin with the Airing of Grievances.

Brian Michael Bendis: I have got a lot of problems with you. You managed to ruin many of my favorite characters. Strangely, these were also some of your favorite characters! You're shittin' in your own den! You should stick to your own original stuff. You do less damage that way.

The Economy: I understand your need to crash, but dammit, I went on the academic market in the very months you decided to bend over and start sucking. Couldn't you have waited one more year, until my salary was protected?

Barack Obama: Oh, don't think just because you're the President that you're immune. You're the busiest man in the world and you still find time to work out three times a week. A paparazzi catches you shirtless on the beach and Adrianna Huffington's drool endangers New Orleans.  Do you know what this means? It means I have to start going to a gym, that's what this means! Presidents are supposed to be guys who are older and fatter than me! And IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!

We will resume later this evening with Feats of Strength. The Rock is going to use a sledgehammer on Dick Cheney's head. Bring a plastic sheet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Character Formatting

True20 already has a particular way that character traits are listed. I've listed that format, with a sample character, on the Allies and Adversaries page.

From the General to the Specific

I completed my working version of the Arthur Lives! secret history. This whole project has been an expansion of an original draft which tried to answer the "What the heck is happening?" question and which I wrote many years ago. This new version adds considerably more illuminated high wierdness and, by being far more specific in many points, festoons the whole project with myriad plot hooks.

The last two chapters are Black Castle, which focuses pretty closely on Himmler, the Holy Vehm, Otto Rahn, Weweslburg, and the Spear of Destiny, and Arthur's Return, which just summarizes the starting point for player characters and tries, perhaps futilely, to explain multiple reincarnations of Arthurian characters in a way that doesn't sound like me pulling story out of my ass.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

High Wierdness

I'm not sure if Arthur Lives! yet qualifies as "High Wierdness," since while it does now have the Bavarian Illuminati, the Freemasons, Sir Francis Bacon, Rosicrucians, John Dee, the School of Night, Cecil Rhodes, Lewis & Clark, the Blackfoot Indians, Assassins, Charles Babbage, te Gnomes of Zurich, more Templars, and William Ashbless (!), it does not yet have carp falling from the sky. But one cannot have everything.

A minor revision to the Secret History added the Cauldron of Annwn as the Templar Treasure. Major additions include the Rise of the Freemasons (Secret History from Elizabeth I to the American Revolution) and the New Grail Quest (Secret History from President Jefferson to Cecil Rhodes).

Friday, December 19, 2008

"But of course."

Did you know that the Ming Emperor hired Dracula to kill King Arthur? Neither did I. Until last night. It did take me a while to figure out exactly how that happened, of course, and I admit I was a little nervous. I couldn't bring myself to actually type the D-word. But there it is.

Also, I did a biography of the Fisher King for one of my playtesters.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Last night I came to the realization that when the Lady of the Lake, Morgan, and the Queens of Norgales and the Waste Lands took Arthur to Avalon by boat, and could not heal his wounds, they put his body in the Cauldron of Annwn. I had been wondering what vessel was worth holding it.

Edward III knew about the plan for Arthur's return, but the plan had not yet progressed far enough for an actual reincarnation to occur, so his hope of a new Round Table was thwarted and he founded the Knights of the Garter instead. But by the end of the War of the Roses the breeding program to create a new Arthur had matured, and Henry VII named his firstborn son Arthur in full knowledge that the boy was the King returned.

Unfortunately, someone then murdered the Prince of Wales, probably through magic though poison is not impossible. I'm not sure who. Likely suspects include the Assassins, the King of France, Savonarola, or Dracula, who was dead about 50 years at this time and may have been a vampire mercenary working for the Vatican.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AL Update: Secret History

I have begun work on the Secret History behind Arthur Lives! I have an old draft of this, but it needs to be greatly expanded and improved upon. So far, I have been able to come up with a pretty good way to explain the magical Arthurian age itself, as compared to the historical Arthur. That is, there's an explanation for why we have plate armor and jousting in 6th century Britain. Some of this began as a riff on Greg Stafford's Pendragon game, but Stafford himself was working off a kernel in Malory and the Lancelot-Grail, so I consider it parallel development rather than outright theft.

Now I realize I have a hole in my history, between Arthur's escape to Avalon in the 6th century and the rise of John Dee and his Occult Imperialism in the 16th. The logical place to play here is the 12th century, which saw not only the work of Chretien and said Vulgate Cycle but also the founding of the Templars. Every conspiracy ultimately rests on the Templars; you don't need Eco to tell you that. But I'm not sure what to do with that time period. I'm confident something will come to me. It's just waiting for me to look the other way first.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AL! Update: Kings.

Since one of my playtesters has a concept for an incarnation of the Fisher King, I decided to create a Path for Kings. I have long considered this anyway, but had left it out mostly for reasons of time and space. However, it really does fill in a gap and if players want it, I would be remiss not to include it.

This also required making a very slight modification to the Knight path, which had previously been designed to represent kings as well. I took out "Estate" and replaced it with "Fearless." Otherwise, just some wording changed.

Welcome to Arthur Lives! fans.

My current creative project is Arthur Lives!, a roleplaying game based on reincarnations of Arthurian characters. It's inspired by some of the Arthurian comics I have read and written on over the years, including both Mage and Camelot 3000.

The draft of the manuscript is online as a wiki which can be found here.

Today I set up a character page for one of my playtesters, who is making a riff on Sir Marrok, the werewolf knight. It turns out back in 1902 someone wrote a whole novel on Marrok, which is giving her plenty to work with. I've also added a few paragraphs to the character creation page emphasizing the freedom players have to manipulate these famous characters to new ends. Many players immediately recoil from playing famous people like Arthur, Guinevere, or Lancelot because of all the personal and romantic baggage which those characters bring with them, but in AL! you really have considerable freedom to jettison such baggage if you don't want to deal with it anymore. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

POTUS Post-Mortem

For the last two and a half months I have been running a Mutants & Masterminds campaign based around the 2008 Presidential election. The heroes are Secret Service agents assigned to the first superhero candidate for President. I'm doing a post-mortem of the campaign on the M&M forums, the Atomic Think Tank.

Interested parties are encouraged to read or comment.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts from the Campaign Trail

When this election began two years ago (!) I was not in Obama's camp. Of course I would vote democratic, but I was a part of the "anyone but Hilary" camp. This may alarm some readers, since Hilary Clinton is a smart, determined, and extremely well-educated individual who might very well have been an excellent President. My basis for ruling her out as our nominee was based not on her talents, but on her last name. I don't believe our country should be run by political dynasties. I thought Bill Clinton was a pretty damn good President, but when our nation was founded it was not the intent that we should pass executive power from one member of a family to another. And yes, that goes for Bushes and Addamses and Kennedys. If Hilary had not been a Clinton, I might very well have backed her. 

Instead, I settled on Edwards. This was, of course, before we found out that Edwards had an affair in his background which would have associated our party -- yet again! -- with adultery and deception. But it soon became clear that this was a race between two superstar candidates, Clinton and Obama, and no one else really had much of a chance. When Edwards dropped out, I moved to the Obama camp with initial uncertainty. The more I learned about him, the happier I became. His Pennsylvania speech on race was, I thought, extraordinarily convincing. I didn't much care about Reverend Wright; what persuaded me was that we had a Presidential candidate who was talking to me like I was an adult and not a moron.

Of course Republican pundits continued to push Clinton as the candidate because (they thought) nothing else would fire up the Republican base as well as another Clinton on the ticket. And as much as I disapproved of her candidacy the fact is that we owe Hilary a huge debt. Not for putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, but for running a tough campaign over many months. That refusal to surrender led Obama and Howard Dean to build an incredible GOTV machine that could pivot seamlessly from the nomination process to the Presidential campaign. Hilary Clinton does not read this blog, but I thank her anyway. Without that primary season, we would have gone into the election without one of our most potent weapons.

There are two lines from this campaign that I especially remember, and Barack Obama didn't say either of them. The first was from Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention; there, he noted that the world has always been more impressed "by the power of our example than by the example of our power." I'm not sure whether that line is Shakespearean in its perfection, or Sphinx-like in its obscurity, but I'm inclined to go with the former mostly because it embodies a notion of America's influence on the world stage which I firmly agree with. Let us live by example. Let us not torture, let us encourage civil rights, let us woo the world through our good behavior.

The other line came soon after, and restored much of my confidence in Obama's victory. The selection of Sarah Palin energized the Republican base and there was, for a few days, a notion that she would also bring around smart and successful women who had been Hilary supporters. This belief was shattered when we all discovered that Governor Palin is an under-educated buffoon. When Saturday Night Live became funny again, Palin was transformed into an albatross around John McCain's neck. If Bill Clinton was this year's Henry V, Tina Fey was our Falstaff.

"And I can see Russia from my house!"

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tomorrow Morning in America

I feel a bit sorry for those of you who may have come to this blog and expected interesting ideas related to my academic and professional interests -- comics, gaming, Renaissance and Medieval literature, writing, and so on. Now that the elephant in the room has been kicked to the curb, I look energetically forward to writing on more of my favorite topics and perhaps giving the rest of you something to think about. In the meantime, I can start wrapping up some thoughts on this election.

Four years ago today I was a complete wreck, and I wasted a lot of calories in stress and tension over Kerry vs. Bush. But after our economy imploded on September 15th, I pretty much stopped worrying about this election. An economy in the tank is an economy in the tank for Obama, and when you combine this with the fact that John McCain's long career in government means that he has passed his expiration date, I was able to more or less unclench and turn politics into a spectator sport. (Jonathan Rauch is the man who determined that American politicians have a 14 year expiration date.) 

None of this, of course, kept me from calling in sick to work and spending the evening glued to MSNBC. I realize that, it being the 21st century and all, I should have just been hitting endless "refresh" on dKos, but let's face it: being hunched over the desk peering at my laptop was just less fun than curling up on the couch and watching Chris Matthews call Tom DeLay "a man who knows how to hate." Keith Olbermann had a pink tie. Rachel Maddow was dreamy. Good times.

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to also learn that Bill Hendrick, whom no one outside of Riverside will have ever heard of, upset 15 year incumbent Ken Calvert, who was a real tool. I mean that in the most literal sense: when the Bush-Cheney administration needed to ram some piece of crap raping of the Constitution through Congress, they reached into the tool box and wrapped their fleshy hands around Ken Calvert's long, cool, handle. In 1993 he was arrested for trying to hire a prostitute. He's been named one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress for three years in a row. The only time he's broken with Bush on a significant issue was to oppose Bush's immigration reform efforts -- which is one of the few things that Bush did right. Despite all this, Ken had one big advantage running for office in Riverside: he's a Republican.  We had token candidates opposing him in past elections but this year Bill Hendrick and the folks at Democracy for America rode the Obama wave and worked their asses off and they deserve a huge heaping bowl of delicious praise. Congratulations to Representative Hendrick.

Unfortunately, not everything came up roses for us last night. Homophobes in California were convinced by homophobes running the Mormon Church to amend the California constitution to ban gay marriage. There's nothing I can say that can top Andrew Sullivan's eloquent and heart-felt thoughts on a matter has fought so hard on, so I'll just say: what he said.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reality Bites

Sometimes the best ideas for stories are found in real-life events, which leap out of their brown paper bags and bite us in the ass.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Neo-Know Nothings

You know what I miss? The intellectual wing of the Republican Party. And I’m not the only one; Times columnist David Brooks, whom I used to despise as the constant Right-Wing balance to E.J. Dionne on NPR, is also in the same state of mourning. I know some really smart Republicans, and this was a party who once trumpeted science as the solution to all our problems. I mean, Reagan wanted to protect America from nuclear missiles using a global network of lasers and mass driver cannons for cryin’ out loud.

But as Brooks makes clear in his Oct 10 column, the Republican Party gave up being a party of ideas and embraced anti-intellectualism. This tactic is successful. Don’t casually wave your hand, snort, and point to to tell me that it’s not working this year. Obama may be up six or eight points in the national polls, but that still means that there are over a hundred million Americans buying into the notion that its okay to be ignorant.

Why does an embrace of anti-intellectualism work? Class warfare is effective in America today because the battle lines have seldom been as clearly drawn. If you added up all the wealth of the 400 richest Americans, it would take 150 million of our nation’s poorest to equal it. That’s four hundred people on one side, and one hundred fifty million on the other. And those poor and rural Americans are resentful, frustrated, mad and guilty. Guilty, you say? How could they feel guilty? After all, they didn’t do anything wrong!

But they do feel guilty: guilty they didn’t get a better education, guilty they don’t read, guilty that they still don’t trust the Black man or the Muslim, guilty that they still think being Gay is a crime. They look around and they see civil rights advancing and they know they’re supposed to keep their mouth shut, but they still, deep in their heart, think it’s all a huge mistake. They see those four hundred billionaires – they shop in their Walmarts – and get guilty that they didn’t strike it rich like those people did. The American Dream says that if you work hard, you can be a success. But that means that, if you’re not a success, you must not be working hard. Multiply that by one hundred fifty million. That’s a lot of resentment. A lot of guilt.

These people don’t want to feel guilty. They want their racial hatred, and their guilt over failing to educate themselves, to be excused. To be embraced and even elevated. And that’s why, last week, when Sarah Palin proclaimed in her best Church Lady voice that Barack Obama just doesn’t see America the way she sees America, what those guilty, resentful people heard was: “Come to our rallies, where it’s okay to standup and, with a microphone in your hand, say you don’t trust the Black man!” While you're at it, bring your Obama-monkey.

Plenty of Republicans have come out for Obama over the last couple of months. Some, like Wick Allison (editor of D Magazine and conservative columnist) have noted that if Obama is elected we can at least rest in the firm knowledge that our President has read the Federalist Papers. Is it too much to ask for, to have a President who reads? Who values education and literacy? Clinton used to sit up late at night reading the galley proofs of books which hadn’t yet seen print. Bush, by contrast, will forever be associated with My Pet Goat. Obama is a guy who writes his own books. I’ve never heard the same criticism leveled at John McCain.

The original Know Nothing Party was a single-issue party formed for one reason: to stop immigration. The arrival of foreigners into the United States was so alarming to these people that it enabled the creation of an entire political party. The history of this movement was sketched out for me in Doris Goodwin's Team of Rivals, and if you have not read this wonderful book yet all I can say is that things start to get a lot more interesting once Lincoln is actually elected. To this day, immigration remains one of the few causes which Republican candidates can reliably use to whip the crowd into a frenzy.

I wish that we really did have a Teddy Roosevelt Republican running for President. Teddy was a writer and an environmentalist; he earned his reputation as the “trust buster” by attacking mega-corporations who were raping the American citizen. He wasn’t perfect, but he would have been tolerable. I don’t morally approve of the idea of using the threat of military force to bend other countries to our will – but it has a realpolitik effectiveness which I find hard to argue with, and if done properly it saves us from actual war. I wouldn’t have voted for a man like that today, but I would not have been ashamed of his victory. If Teddy Roosevelt could meet the men surrounding John McCain’s candidacy, he’d take a singlestick to each and every one of them.

Of course, I want progressive Democrats to win this election, but I also crave a respectable opposition party in this country. I want a Republican party that doesn’t prey on the racist bigot in all of us, that educates at the same time as it governs, that can look in the mirror without shame. But I’ll have to let someone else in the Republican Party create that dream. I’m too busy drinking my latte, driving my Volvo, and sharpening my pointy-head.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This is Red Five; I'm goin' in.

My first application letter and CV is going to the University of Texas at Austin. Everyone has told me that Austin is by far the best place to live in Texas for, while it is expensive, it is also a liberal bastion. All I know is that In Nomine based its campaign arc there -- a decision I always found a bit narcissistic.

UT at Austin has the Harry Ransom Center, a collection of rare books and manuscripts that (in some areas) rivals the Huntington Library or even (in other areas) surpasses it. They have what appears to be a modest rare comics collection, along with a strong holding in the English Renaissance: Spenser, Milton, and of course Shakespeare. Indeed, the whole campus seems to have a bit of Shakespeare on the brain. I expect I would love it there. They're also a full graduate program with a Ph.D. in English, something not every school I am applying to can boast.

The competition will, no doubt, be fierce. They're looking specifically for Spenser and Metaphysicals experts, and I can nail that hard. But so can my fellow Ph.D. Jean Bacharova. If I lose to her, at least I will have lost fair and square however, as she is a class act.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Waking from the Nightmare

Two nights ago I had a dream, and it went like this: it was election night, 2008 and Pennsylvania and New Jersey went Red. John McCain became the President of the United States. How could such a thing happen? I asked myself this, and my dream-voice said something about how unemployed folks in these states had moved elsewhere looking for work, so could not turn out to vote. As is typical for a dream voice, what it said makes absolutely no sense now, looking back, but at the time it was incontrovertible.

It doesn't take a Freudian analysis to clue you in that I have been not only thinking too much about politics lately, but also that I have been worrying we might lose. The loss I have been dreading is not a reasonable loss -- the loss of a candidate who is fairly beaten on issues of great difficulty and complexity. Rather, I have been dreading the lossa on a cheat, a loss caused by a technicality. While there was a time when I could imagine how an intelligent and informed individual could have voted for McCain, that day passed when someone sat him down behind a closed door in some luxuriously appointed summer home in Maine and said, "John, we can make you President. But you're going to have to get with the program."

Now, the only way I can imagine the GOP winning is through the manipulation of one of their many cheat-levers: voter suppresion through house foreclosure lists, the fear of terrorist attacks prompted by endless viewing of 9/11 footage, illegal refusal to obey subpoenas in corruption probes in the full knowledge that nothing will be done till after November ... and by then it will be too late. Once the Republican machine is vindicated with another for years in power, they can take their hands off the wheel and let 95% of America grow poorer and less secure, saving their efforts for the white-tie crowd, their base.

The news since the Democratic Convention has not been good. Palin, who as far as I can tell is nothing but a tinpot dictator who wraps her santimonious smugness in the name of Jesus, dominated the country. But then something marvellous happened: right after Palin embarassed herself with Charlie Gibson (Gibson! Who woulda thunk it?) we got the combination punch delivered by Saturday Night Live. Yeah! I know! Saturday Night Live! Christ, has anyone watched that show since Mike Myers left? So far, the two sound bites I will most remember are, "people have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power," and, "I can see Russia from my house!"

But then something else happened. Then our financial system started to melt down like styrofoam in a microwave. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on this particular topic. But there are some things I have been able to figure our about it: firstly, the long run of house foreclosure was a major factor in the collapse. Second, our government is spending about a trillion dollars to socialize our banking and insurance industry. Third, none of the people who are responsible for this disaster, in any of their myriad financial institutions and government offices, will suffer any punishment of any kind. Fourthly, the rest of us are still screwed. Finally, we are gonna win.

John McCain is a resourceful guy, but there is no way that he can get out from under the hammer of an unpopular President from his own party, while the economy is tanking. There's not a whole lot else that matters. Obama's eloquent and inspiring speeches, SNL's judgement day rise from the dead, mooseburgers, 9/11, and POWs are all ultimately irrelevant. This is Bush vs. Clinton with the roles reversed and the dial turned up to 11. The national nightmare is over, it's just too bad we had to crash Wall Street and stick the American taxpayers with a trillion dollar bill to get there. And now Obama has the hard job: he won't be able to just pat us on the head and comfort us with a soothing, "There there. It was all just a dream."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Secret Origin of Doctor Comics

It's all Darren's fault. Really, it is.

I don't need to tell you that the only kind of nickname worth a damn is the sort someone else gives you. Shoeless Joe. William the Conqueror. The Gubernator. Okay, maybe if you become Roman Emperor, you can name yourself Augustus with a straight face, but the rest of us are doomed to accept whatever name we're given, while hoping desperately that said name is not "Arseface."

I got the "Doctor J" label at my local game store. I always liked it, because I actually remember Julius Irving and Larry Byrd duelling it out for fruit pies in the pages of Marvel Team-Up. Now, I wasn't a real Doctor yet (and I certainly was no basketball star) but the guys considered that a minor detail; there was another guy named Jason around, and I was distinguished from him by virtue of being over-educated.

It was Darren who decided I should be Doctor Comics, and he even introduced me to some of his very clever friends in this way. But I was reluctant because -- contrary to what you might think -- I am neither the sole nor the most distinguished PhD specializing in comics. I look at the work of people like Marc Singer, Charles Hatfield, or Gene Kannenberg and ask, "Shouldn't one _them_ be Doctor Comics?" (Sorry, Amy; you have to actually read comics to be Doctor Comics.)

But, you know what? They didn't get the name given to them or, if they did, they did not have the chutzpah to claim it. Well, emboldened as I am by the bulletproof shield of the dissertation, I do claim this name which is mine by right, granted on the field of battle. Doctor J is dead; long live Doctor Comics.

Obama's "Billy Martin"

Some writers on dKos have begun voicing a suspicion which my inside voice first began to articulate at the Democratic National Convention. As we heard speaker after speaker -- Hillary, Bill, Biden, and Obama himself -- praise McCain as an honorable man, we got a universal sinking feeling. Surely, we were not going to get the same level of respect from the GOP; Obama's nice guy stance just meant we would all finish last. Again.

But now I cannot help but wonder if the Obama campaign wasn't giving McCain the Billy Martin: a second chance, a chance to play fair, a chance to do the right thing before a can of righteous whoop-ass is opened. And, like Pacino in "Ocean's Thirteen," McCain said no to the Billy Martin, his campaign turning from predictable levels of exaggeration to the flat-out lie. Now, we're starting to get a new tone from the Obama campaign: not "McCain is an honorable man who just doesn't get it," or even, ""McCain is a liar," but, rather, "McCain used to be an honorable man, but now he's sacrificing his integrity to win the White House." There's a kind of resigned sadness to this message -- a tone that says, "We didn't want to say bad things about John, but he's made us do it." And that -- a moral high ground that still allows Obama to pull no punches -- would not have been possible without the Billy Martin.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Three Feet High and Risin'"

On Thursday, the MLA job list was posted. My first pass turned up 54 jobs, none of which mentioned comics. However, academic honesty forbids me from pretending I could teach Anglo-Saxon or the history of the English language, so limiting my search to Renaissance or Ren/Medieval posts reduced my haul to 32 positions. These are the jobs to which I will apply, and I was encouraged to see so many.

Admittedly, I have my work cut out for me between now and December, but better that by far than a dearth of opportunities.

"Charlie, I'd have to say ... World Peace."

Am I the only person who, watching our potential Vice-President answering questions from a talk-show host, was reminded of nothing so much as the Miss America personal interview round? But as I think back on it now, I realize the comparison breaks down under stress. After all, these are women who travel the world as ambassadors of good will; Palin has never left North America. They offer encouragement, praise, and a sincere smile; Palin tosses glib insults and condescending sarcasm with a sneer. Miss Congeniality pleads for world peace; Palin suggests war with Russia. Calling Sarah Palin a "beauty pageant candidate" is an insult to beauty pageants.